Monday, August 23, 2010

Vegetarian Wines

My sister, Jane, who lives out on the Wet Coast…not wet enough these days…sent me this short article from BC Living about vegetarian wine, which includes a list of some of the BC wineries that make vegetarian wines.

As the article points out, winemakers often use animal products in fining (clarifying) wines. Although the products themselves don’t become part of the wine in any significant quantities, many vegetarians and vegans prefer to avoid wines made with these products. (By the way, if you’re appalled that you don’t know that winemakers use animal products in making wine, then you don’t know the half of wine manipulation.)

If you’re avoiding animal products in the making of wines and you don’t have ready access to those BC wines listed in the article, you have a few options.

Look for the words “unfined” on the back label of the bottles in your local store, which simply means that the winemaker hasn't clarified the wine. (Of course, this also means that your wine might be a bit cloudy, as the point of fining is to remove stuff that will otherwise float around in the wine.)

Another option is to look for wines fined using bentonite, but I have never seen that disclosed on a label.

As the article states, in Australia and New Zealand, winemakers who use isinglass (made from fish), casein (made from milk), or egg whites (made from…well, you know) must disclose this on the label as an allergenic substance, so that region’s wines may be your first stop at the store.

Finally, winemakers generally use fining with everyday – a euphemism for cheaper – wines but less often with fine – a euphemism for expensive – wines, simply because fine wines take longer to make; the molecules precipitate and can be removed without fining agents.

In my upcoming wine picks, I'll keep an eye out for wines that qualify as "vegetarian".

By the way, the “natural” wine aficionados believe that unfined wines simply taste better because fining strips some of the flavours from the wine. A minority view, but à chacun ses gouts.

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1 comment:

  1. The WSET class suggested that virtually all wines go through bentonite fining. It's much cheaper (but rougher) than egg white fining.